Tested: 2021 Ford Bronco Outer Banks Is an Everyday Bronco

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Tested: 2021 Ford Bronco Outer Banks Is an Everyday Bronco
© Andi Hedrick – Car and Driver The turbo four-cylinder engine paired with smaller wheels and tires provides a smooth ride and the best fuel economy of the lineup.

On our September 2021 magazine cover, a Ford Bronco sans doors and roof took flight at Michigan’s Silver Lake Sand Dunes. That Rapid Red Bronco was equipped with the Sasquatch off-road package that adds 35-inch tires and makes it look like it eats Jeep Wranglers for breakfast. Ford says that the Sasquatch accounts for more than half of current orders, but the majority of Broncos that’ll arrive once Ford can catch up with production will be the tamer models, stampeding through city streets rather than crawling over boulders and launching off dunes.

These will be the everyday Broncos, like the four-door hardtop Outer Banks model tested here. However, that didn’t stop us from having our share of fun at an off-road park in northern Michigan, where we learned that even a Bronco without all the off-road hardware is still very capable when the pavement ends. It’s powered by a turbocharged 2.3-liter inline-four that makes 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. This base engine can be paired with a seven-speed manual gearbox, but our Cyber Orange example came equipped with the 10-speed automatic, which is sure to be the more popular choice. The four-banger is only slightly slower than the more powerful twin-turbo V-6 we previously tested, requiring 6.5 seconds to reach 60 mph. It’s more than adequate for the daily trips Broncos like this will make commuting—and to travel off road now and then.

Tested: 2021 Ford Bronco Outer Banks Is an Everyday Bronco
© Andi Hedrick – Car and Driver 2021 Ford Bronco Outer Banks

Ford uses an independent front suspension that makes the Bronco feel more like a workaday SUV rather than a body-on-frame off-roader. However, significant bumps in the pavement will remind you that there’s a live axle out back. Serious off-roaders might gripe at the Bronco’s front-suspension setup and the four-wheel-drive system’s electronic controls, but this Bronco’s pilots will appreciate their ease of use. Four-wheel drive is quickly engaged by a button left of the gear selector that rests atop a dial that switches between the G.O.A.T. drive modes.

Trail sights on both front corners are visible from the driver’s seat and make you forget that this Bronco isn’t riding high on 35s. It’s a bad*** look out over the hood, and the toughness follows through to the interior. From the outside, though, the 18-inch gloss black aluminum wheels on Bridgestone Dueler A/T RH-S all-terrain tires, size 255/70R-18, make the Bronco look like it skipped leg day. We’d forgo the tube steps and body-colored fenders, which exacerbate the situation. However, those smaller tires and turbo four deliver the highest EPA fuel economy rating of all the Broncos at 20 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway.

Tested: 2021 Ford Bronco Outer Banks Is an Everyday Bronco
© Andi Hedrick – Car and Driver 2021 Ford Bronco Outer Banks

Outer Banks models come standard with an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Ford’s SYNC 4 infotainment system and a six-speaker stereo. Our test car came with the $3590 Lux package, which increases screen real estate to 12.0 inches and plays tunes through a Bang & Olufsen sound system. The XL screen distracts from some substandard interior materials elsewhere. Four-door models have a comfortable back seat, but even this six-foot-seven evaluator can cram in the back of a two-door model. Along with eased second-row ingress and egress, the bigger benefit of the longer wheelbase is that it provides more room to haul groceries behind the second row. Wind noise is still significant in the cabin regardless of rubber, with this Outer Banks model recording the same 71-decibel reading at 70 mph as the First Edition one we tested.

Everyone loves the tough look the Sasquatch kit brings, but those who want the nostalgic feel of the new Bronco with all the livability of a regular SUV won’t be disappointed with the Outer Banks—or even a lesser trim level—and the base 2.3-liter engine. It’s a toy you can live with every day. The midrange model starts at $42,945, with our luxury-appointed example ringing in at $53,150. Step down a few grades to save some coin—and, remember, you can always add the bigger rubber later.

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